The reckoning of sexual violence and corruption: A gendered study of sextortion in migration to South Africa

Ashleigh Bicker Caarten, Loes van Heugten & Ortrun Merkle


This research seeks to understand experiences of sextortion of African migrants migrating to South Africa and how these are gendered. This research is interesting and relevant both for academic and policy discussion, for two reasons. For one, sextortion is an emerging concept that has not been sufficiently studied and for another, South-South migration is still frequently forgotten in studies about migration. This paper analyses and discusses the 16 semi-structured interviews with experts in migration, corruption and gender as a first scoping study looking at migrants' experiences with sextortion in the South African context. The results have highlighted that women are most vulnerable to sextortion and that migrants not only encounter sextortion during their journeys, but also after arriving in South Africa. This can be explained referring to South Africa's culture where both gender-based violence and xenophobia are deeply rooted, making up for an "ideal" environment for sextortion to take place. At last, this paper discusses the different consequences that surviving sextortion has, which are, among others, the spread of STIs, unwanted pregnancies, shame, stigmatisation, and normalisation.

Keywords: Sextortion, Migration, Corruption, Gender-based violence, Sexual violence, Sexual transactions, South-South migration, Intra-Africa migration, South African migration

JEL Classification: D73, F22, F59

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